Huawei, Leica collaboration yields dual-camera P9, P9 Plus

With smartphones as good as they are right now, you have to wonder where the next big battleground will be in regards to the flagship phone. It could be 4G speeds, though we’re kind of already there. It could be waterproofing, but Samsung and Sony are both already there, with Apple expected to have something in this category in September.

So with so much work being done to the smartphone to make it better than ever, it may not surprise you to except cameras to be the next area where smartphone manufacturers are being hotly tipped to blow our minds.

Indeed, in Samsung’s Galaxy S7 this year, we’ve seen some tremendous work, building on the excellence that was in the S6 range which itself competed quite hard with Apple’s own technology and that from LG and Microsoft.

Huawei, not to be outdone, has joined forces with a long established player in the camera market: Leica.

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“Leica and Huawei share an uncompromising commitment to imaging excellence, and our partnership will put outstanding photography into the hands of more consumers around the world,” said Oliver Kaltner, CEO of Leica Camera AG.

“We are deepening our collaboration to give users a more optimal smartphone photography experience.”

The first two phones to benefit from this collaboration have been announced, and they are to join Huawei’s established “P” series of devices, coming in the form of the P9 and P9 Plus.

huawei-p9-2016-03Both are very similar with a difference of screen size and battery separating the two phones, the P9 arriving with a 5.2 inch Full HD screen and 3000mAh battery while the P9 Plus gets a 5.5 inch Full HD screen and 3400mAh battery, but other than these changes, they’re pretty much the same phone under the hood.

Both sit at just under a thickness of 7mm (6.9mm actually) and arrive with Huawei’s own processing unit, and eight core processor called the Kirin 955. This is paired with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage, though a version of the standard P9 will be made with 32GB storage and 3GB RAM.

The similarities continues with a rear fingerprint sensor for each, 4G LTE support, Google’s Android 6.0 being on both as well as Huawei’s Emotion UI (EMUI) 4.1 Android overlay, with both also featuring a camera designed to make it possible for anyone to take a stellar photo.

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You see the camera on the Huawei P9 and P9 Plus takes advantage of two cameras working together, but unlike other phones that we’ve seen this on — like HTC’s One M8 — this technology isn’t here for focus shifting like the Lytro Lightfield Array camera, but rather for photographic detail.

One camera captures in colour while the other handles in monochrome, and it is this difference which Huawei said enables the P9 to excel in low-light, with the colour camera able to focus on colours while the monochrome handles detail.

We imagine Leica’s glass plays a part in this, but processing also plays a part, with film modes for standard colours, vivid colours, and smooth colours, while a monochromatic mode also caters for Leica-quality classic black and white images.

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“Huawei is excited to give P9 users the best smartphone photography experience by leveraging the unrivalled capabilities of Leica, the leader in the world of imaging for more than 100 years,” said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s Consumer Business Group.

“Consumers around the world use their smartphones to take billions of pictures each year, making photography critical to user experience. P9 users can now capture images with unmatched clarity, richness and authenticity, with a masterfully designed and powerful smartphone that looks and feels incredible.”

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Pricing and availability isn’t yet known for Australia, with representatives for the company telling GadgetGuy that it would be available “in Australia later this year”, but we’d hazard a guess that with a $599 Euro starting pricing point for the P9 and $749 Euro price for the P9 Plus, the Leica side of things will make this one of Huawei’s first properly premium priced smartphones in ages when it does arrive.

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